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Toward Independence, Other British Measures

English East India Company, Quebec Act, Massachusetts Charter, Intolerable Acts, Tea Act

The Tea Act of 1773 maintained the tax on tea and gave the English East India Company a monopoly on the export of that commodity. The company’s tea ships ran into trouble in American ports, most notably in Boston, where on December 16, 1773, colonials dressed as Native Americans dumped a shipload of tea into the harbor.

Britain responded to this Boston Tea Party with the Intolerable Acts of 1774, which closed the port of Boston until Bostonians paid for the tea. The acts also permitted the British army to quarter its troops in civilian households, allowed British soldiers accused of crimes while on duty in America to be tried in Britain or in another colony, and revised the Massachusetts Charter to abolish its elected legislature.

At the same time, the Quebec Act organized a British government in Canada that frightened many Protestant, libertarian Americans: It allowed the Catholic Church to remain established in French Canada, and it established a government with fewer liberties than Americans enjoyed. Some Americans saw the act as a model for what the British had in mind for them. Along with the Intolerable Acts and the Quebec Act came clear signs that Britain would use whatever military force it needed to subdue the Americans.

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